Walls and boundaries

A loud and busy building site that has a very big house on it has been the cause of some consternation. Pushing through the irritation and remaining neighbourly is the battle we wage.

We have a building site next door to us. It has been in progress for at least the last year. By the size of the building and the number of contractors coming and going, you would think it was a three storey apartment building. It is not. It is one house. A very large home for a very small family of three.

Over the course of the year we, and the surrounding properties, have endured the sounds of chopping down trees, multiple bulldozers and large trucks, drilling, grinding, sawing, mixing, banging, and hammering, along with the loud voices of the many people doing the work onsite. We live and work from our home, hence the impact. We have the luxury of double glazed windows so we can buffer the sound but it gets pretty stuffy so we are forced to open windows from time to time in order not to expire.

“If she as much makes a peep about any noise coming from our side, I will blast the building sounds I recorded back at her at 3am in the morning,” Matthew growls as he shuts the window on the most recent spate of grinding.


Goodbye privacy

In addition to the afronting noise we now have a very high wall that looms above our property with a balcony that overlooks our pool. It was built west facing to catch the sunset and to enjoy the view of what we call “Holiday Hill” because it looks as if it rolls down into a (non-existent) sea. It will also offer a fine, unencumbered sight of us swimming. Goodbye privacy.

In between recording building noises, Matthew has been plotting and planning all kinds of ways to reclaim our space.

“We’re going to build a deck right here in front of the wall,” he tells everyone, “It will go as high up as the balcony which will now look onto the back of the deck. We will have the view and our privacy back - ha!”

While Matthew smiles in triumph, Chantal rolls her eyes.

“Let’s just wait and see, maybe it won’t be that bad,” she says half heartedly.

The last thing she wants to do is start a feud with the new neighbour. Matthew, on the other hand, is ready for it.


Two of the most exemplary embodiments of doing the Work and resting.

Being neighbourly

Being neighbourly is something we have worked hard at. We introduced ourselves to all our neighbours when we moved in in 2019. We joined the street group, always pitched up for the quarterly street meets, and contributed to the additional guarding. Matthew even took over as street captain.

We have made some firm friends with a number of the people in our street and wonder about those that steer away from connecting and getting involved. For us it is all about building community. It is not the high walls that will keep us safe, it will be having each other’s backs and looking out for each other that will truly make the difference. It’s not for nothing that connectedness and community are two of our qualities at 5th Place.

So it is confounding to have to face the difficulties with our new neighbour and her massive concrete block towering house. The other owners of the properties that flank our under-construction neighbour are equally upset. Trees that provided a modicum of privacy, shade and noise reduction, were all chopped down. The new house stares down on the homes, entertainment areas and back gardens of the properties on every side of it.


Practising ‘brain gym’ at our first ‘Emotional Fitness Superpower Programme’ session for the year. The Superpower in question? Focus!

Good fences make good neighbours

We would all be fine if it wasn’t for the intrusion we all feel. Our little sanctuaries have been bust open and exposed without consultation, little engagement and lots of loud noise. We all feel affronted and the family has not even moved in yet.

‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ says his neighbour in the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. The poet ponders over whether good fences indeed do make good neighbours. His counterpart is steadfast in his belief as they, one on each side of the wall, mend the gaps “that even two can pass abreast” caused by something “that doesn’t love a wall”.

It’s maybe not so much about fences and walls but actual boundaries. Effective boundaries which cover material, physical, mental, emotional, sexual and spiritual boundaries, reflect our personal values and priorities and do change over time. In this instance we are talking about physical boundaries that include how we protect our personal space and privacy, and which we feel have been violated. We just have not had the opportunity to say “No”.


Albeit slightly fuzzy, or should that be ‘buzzy’?! here’s an example of one of ‘our’ almost perfect honeycombed frame ready for harvest.

Not able to say “No”

Being able to say “No” has left us feeling disempowered and not a little bit resentful. It does not bode well for neighbourliness and building connections. It’s how feuds start and we really don’t want that. So what to do?

Some of the “neighbour from hell” stories we have been told by friends have made us feel less aggrieved about our soon to be new neighbours. They look like a conservative couple with a teenage daughter who has just started high school, and they don’t appear to be the “party all night” type. Only time will tell.

The building noises will end, and the inconveniences will become a dusty memory. We may see them on their balcony when we swim on hot summer afternoons. We will wave and invite them to join us. They probably won’t and we will find ways to ignore them while we cool down.

We might be invited for a sundowner and get to see exactly what it is that they do: Holiday Hill, 5th Place pool and all. They probably won’t and we will walk up to our spot next to the ancient pear tree to watch the pastel sunset just past the roof, between the jacaranda and oak trees.

Acceptance and boundaries

We will plant a few more trees against the bordering wall, and encourage the creeper to creep higher. We won’t change the way we live while we lean in to embrace and accept what we cannot change.

Acceptance and boundaries are a fine balancing act. Knowing when and where to draw the line without being divisive, intolerant or overly judgmental. Knowing what to accept without being taken for granted, used or abused.

We live in a world divided by conflict and ego-driven destruction. We do not need to add to that energy. What is really important is to choose our battles wisely and to mend walls with our neighbours whether we really see the need or not because it is always better to live with rather than against each other.

Until next time.

Yours in feeling,
Matthew & Chantal

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